The region’s transit planning agency officially hung out the “going out of business” sign Friday.
The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority governing board voted unanimously Friday to disband the agency, though final authority to do so rests with the state Legislature. State Rep. Jeff Holcomb, R-Spring Hill, a former member of the authority’s board, and Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-St. Petersburg, have already introduced bills in Tallahassee to do just that.
Holcomb, in an email to the Tampa Bay Times, said his tenure on the authority included struggles to gain a quorum for monthly meetings, and hearing “unrealistic transportation options, like unmanned multi passenger helicopters. We also tried to gain access to CSX (rail) lines, which never materialized and we heard Hillsborough and the city of Tampa refuse to work” with the authority.
“Without the cooperation from the few counties that did show up it really became a no-brainer to repeal” the authority, he said.
Friday, the governing board, after initial objections from Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, agreed to shut down most operations by Dec. 31, with all invoices and bank accounts closed out by March. 31, 2024. The proposed state legislation set the dissolution to be completed at the end of the state fiscal year on June 30, 2024.
Executive Director David Green and Accounting Director Melonie Williams will receive 20 weeks severance when the shut down is completed with the combined salary and benefits totaling $146,527.
The Legislature created the agency, known commonly by the acronym TBARTA, in 2007 as a seven-county planning authority. A decade later, legislators shrunk the membership to five counties and the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg and refocused its mission exclusively on transit.
The agency, which had no taxing authority, couldn’t overcome parochial concerns in attempting to plan its first major project — a 41-mile bus rapid transit project linking Wesley Chapel to Tampa and St. Petersburg along Interstates 75 and 275. Hillsborough County’s representatives on the board called it an unnecessary duplication of services that could be provided by existing bus agencies if they had additional funding.
Some board members and public speakers on Friday said they hoped regional transit planning can continue in another forum.
“This situation is not going to get better on its own,” said Bill Roberts, who had served as chairperson of the agency’s citizens advisory committee.